The Japanese diet has been on the health and nutrition radar ever since statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed in 2011 that Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world. In 2013 Japan had an average life expectancy of 84.6 and is believed to have one of the highest populations of centenarians (people living over 100 years old).
It seems that Japan has found the secret to health and longevity. Whilst globally at least 2.8 million people a year die of obesity related causes according to WHO statistics, in Japan the obesity rate is just 3.6%. Japan also has lower rates of cancer and heart disease and stay active well into their later years.
So what is it about the Japanese diet and lifestyle that keeps them so healthy, and how can we adopt their eating habits to increase our own longevity?
The Japanese diet consists mainly of fish, vegetables, fruit, soy products and green tea. The leading gerontologist, Craig Wilcox, told the Times this week that Japanese people on average eat three servings of fish a week, lots of wholegrains and more sea vegetables like Konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world.
We're not saying that you need to adopt a completely Japanese diet to live a long and healthy life, but following these easy ways to incorporate beneficial Japanese nutritional and eating habits into your lifestyle is a good step on the road to longevity.
1. Eat smaller portions. Many Japanese people eat until they are just 80% full and eat slowly. They place a huge importance of enjoying the quality and appearance of their food than of the quantity.
2. Eat more food which are rich in protein but low in saturated fat. This can be done by increasing your intake of fish and incorporating more protein and calcium rich soy products like tofu and edamame beans. Edamame beans are a fantastic source of protein, fibre and omega 3 but also have the added benefit of having to be eaten slowly by working them from their pods.
3. Substitute carbohydrates like pasta, bread and potato for complex carbohydrates which release their energy slowly, like buckwheat, which is the main ingredient of soba noodles.
4. Try eating more sea vegetables which are extremely rich in minerals like calcium, chromium, zinc, iron, potassium and iodine and antioxidants which are vital for boosting your body's immune system. Eating more sea vegetables is easier than you think - a lot of sushi contains seaweed and you can buy sea vegetable salads or dried seaweed flakes to sprinkle in your food from most health food stores.